Roasted Baby Chicken with Tomato Passato

A young, tender chicken—of the sort your butcher likely labels a broiler—lends itself particularly well to pan-roasting.  When it is boned and pressed as described, its skin will be flawlessly crisp and its flesh supple and succulent.  This makes a perfect roast for two—but of course, you can easily multiply the recipe to serve as many as you please.

Serves 2

¼ cup (60 mL) sugar

1 sprig rosemary

1 small chicken (about 2½ lb/1.25 kg)

3 tbsp (50 mL) olive oil

Salt and pepper

1 tbsp (15 mL) top-quality red wine vinegar

2 tbsp (30 mL) butter

2 tbsp (30 mL) pureed tomato passato (page 83 in Mark McEwan’s Fabbrica)

1 tbsp (15 mL) fine olive oil


Preheat oven to 325°F (160°C).

Combine the sugar with an equal amount of water in a small saucepan, and heat, stirring, until completely dissolved.  Dip the rosemary in the simple syrup and then place it on a rack on a baking sheet.  Bake for 5 minutes and then set aside to dry for about 2 hours.

Bone (or ask your butcher to bone) the chicken in such a way that the bird is halved and only the lower wing and leg bones (and not the thigh bones) remain.  Slash the leg 1/4 inch (5 mm) deep 3 times on each side (optional).  Massage the bird with half of the olive oil and season it generously.  Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken halves skin side down, place a second, smaller skillet (or a brick) on top to weight them down, and sear until bronzed, about 7 minutes.  Transfer the weighted bird to the oven and roast for 10 minutes. Remove the weight, flip the halves, and baste. Return to the oven until fully cooked, about another 5 minutes.  Transfer to 2 warm serving plates (or a warm platter).

Pour off any excess fat from the skillet and place it over medium-high heat. Deglaze the pan with the vinegar, and then stir in the butter until melted.  Season lightly and pour the sauce around the chicken. Dab each half of the bird with the passato and then crumble rosemary leaves over top.  Drizzle with the fine olive oil and serve.

Substitutions: This same preparation works just as well with Cornish Rock hens, but you will need an entire bird for each serving.  If you wish, you may skip toasting the rosemary and instead snip a little of its leaves into the roasting pan before adding the bird.  The aesthetic will not be as pleasing, but the flavour will be just as good.
Side Dish Suggestions: Deep-Fried Baby Artichokes; Grilled Asparagus; Spring Peas with Carrots and Rabbit Sauce
Suggested Wine: Chianti Classico

McEwan Fabbrica

[From: Mark McEwan’s Fabbrica: Great Italian Recipes Made Easy for Home by Mark McEwan. Copyright © General Purpose Entertainment, 2011. Reprinted by permission of Penguin Group (Canada), a Division of Pearson Canada Inc.]